The Pleasure Centers On Your Body You Didn't Even Know About

Most people have heard the expressions "getting to first base" or "scoring a home run." These sayings turn sports metaphors into sexual allusions, hinting at a certain goal that is supposed to result from physical intimacy. And, to plenty of folks, that mentality makes sense. After all, is there a problem with bringing an "eyes on the prize" attitude into the bedroom? Well, according to sexologists, the answer is: Yes.

Debby Herbenick, PH.D., M.P.H., is a sexual health professor, per her personal website. In a piece she wrote for Psychology Today, Herbenick explained that being too focused on one area of the body can be detrimental to one's sex life. "In the quest for sexual pleasure, we too often focus squarely on one another's genitals as if those few square inches hold the only key to ecstasy," she wrote. Apparently, this sense of tunnel vision can lead to dissatisfaction over time. Herbenick warned, "[S]ex runs the risk of turning stale unless partners pay attention to each other and to more than just the [obvious pleasure centers]." 

To achieve a happier and healthier sex life, couples can try to let go of goal-based intimacy and strive for something more holistic. One way that partners can do this is by focusing less on the areas below the belt and, instead, putting more effort into other parts of the body. In doing so, couples can discover the many pleasure centers that exist, from their scalps to their toes.

The lower back

At first glance, the lower back might not seem like the sexiest part of the body. However, sexologists report that it is actually a powerful pleasure center. According to Astroglide's resident sexologist, Dr. Jess O'Reilly, the lower back can experience intense feelings of enjoyment. As O'Reilly told SheKnows, certain individuals find that, "their lower back is the most sensitive area of their body." Per the sexologist, the area can be stimulated through some tickling, and can even result in "orgasmic sensations."

The reason for the lower back's intense sensitivity can be traced to the area's anatomy. In an interview with Metro, Dr. Deborah Lee, a sexual health physician, revealed that many women experience lower back pleasure, thanks to a bone called the sacrum. Located above the tailbone, the sacrum is able to stimulate many of the nerve endings in the pelvic area. Per the doctor, many women can experience orgasm when their partner massages this area. "A 'sacr[al] orgasm' is another way of achieving female orgasm, by directly stimulating nerves in the sacral [lower back] area," she told Metro. While Dr. Lee suggested massaging the lower back on its own, she also recommended touching this body part throughout intercourse. "Women often find sexual stimulation, such as stroking, or applying pressure on their lower back directly over the sacral region, highly pleasurable during sex," she revealed.

The shoulders

The lower back isn't the part of the body that could benefit from a nice, gentle massage. A good old-fashioned shoulder rub could also help partners access their pleasure centers by fostering a sense of relaxation. According to My Health Alberta, shoulder massages can help reduce tension and relieve stress. And the more relaxed that partners feel during an intimate moment, the more satisfaction they experience. 

The reason for this is that stress has a direct impact on sex drive. In an interview with Talkspace, psychologist Rachel O'Neill, Ph.D., LPCC-S, explained that an increase in stress can cause a decrease in sexual activity. "When you're stressed ... you may not feel much responsive or spontaneous desire for sex," O'Neill revealed. The psychologist also went on to warn that stress can actually make sex feel like a chore. "It's also possible that you may simply feel like sex is one more thing that you need to add to your to-do list," she added.

Luckily, however, taking time to relax can greatly impact one's libido. As sex therapist Diane Gleim LMFT, CST, wrote for a piece in Psychology Today, "Relaxation is a necessary part of not just sex but good sex." Partners looking to sink into that relaxed state can exchange pleasurable shoulder massages. To achieve this, Health Alberta recommends "kneading" the two shoulder muscles softly and then slowly increasing pressure. For maximum enjoyment, try adding a soft squeeze to the back of the neck.   

The spine

While giving a relaxing shoulder massage, partners might want to stimulate some of the body's other pleasure centers. One thing to consider is adding in some spine play. According to the experts, this can be a great way to simply enjoy your partner's body or set the mood for sex. Chantelle Otten is an Australian psycho-sexologist who has also worked as an ambassador for Love Honey. In an interview with Body+Soul, Otten noted that not everyone knows just how pleasurable spine stimulation can be. "A zone that people can neglect is the spine," she lamented. Nonetheless, the psychotherapist opined that many partners will enjoy spine stimulation if they follow a few tips. "[O]nce you trail a single finger, a pinwheel, or perhaps a feather tickler, down the length of your partner's spine, you won't forget this zone in a hurry," she told Body+Soul.

The reason that spinal pleasure is so powerful has to do with the spine's function in the body. As per the Cleveland Clinic, the spine sends nerve signals from the body to the brain and vis-versa. This means that one of your spine's jobs is to report sensations back to your brain. And, as noted in Psychology Today, the spine even has a special pathway that only sends "pleasant touch" signals from the body to the brain. Because of this, partners might consider stimulating each other's spines using their fingers, tongues, or even toys.  

The armpits

Armpits might not have a great overall reputation. After all, they are one of the only body parts that inspired a special product designed to control their smell. (Cue: deodorant.) Nonetheless, armpits are a powerful part of the body when it comes to their erogenous potential. For one thing, armpits are rumored to secrete the scents that generate sexual attraction. As licensed sex therapist Vanessa Marin, MFT, told Insider, "Some people believe the armpits to be an erogenous zone because they may secrete pheromones, but this is still debated." For another thing, armpits are extremely sensitive to touch. 

According to sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, a lot of people experience the armpits as a pleasure center simply because this zone is so often ignored during sex. In a conversation with mindbodygreen, Steward elaborated, "Kissing and teasing the armpit can be sexy for you, especially because it is a zone that doesn't get touched often, so it's more sensitive than a lot of the areas on the body." She also explained that underarm pleasure doesn't have to stop at simple touching. "Armpits get a bad rap because of the odors they emit, but for some of us, armpits are [also] erogenous to smell," she added.

The neck

The neck can be a serious pleasure center, thanks to the area's overall sensitivity. As sexual health physician Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD, pointed out in a piece for Lybrae, both the nape of the neck and the back of the neck are "pleasure points" for some people. According to the physician, "[The nape of the neck is an] erogenous spot ... packed with nerve endings." Later, he explained that the blood flow through the back of the neck also stimulates feelings of pleasure. In a section on this area, Gupta wrote, "[Y]our neck acts as a hot spot: it's extremely sensitive, full of blood vessels, and is associated with vulnerability."

To stimulate neck pleasure, partners can try a unique breathing technique suggested by clinical sexologist Debra Laino, Ph.D. In an interview with Women's Health, Laino revealed that partners can exhale on each other's necks to achieve enjoyable results. "Even a faint breath excites the nerve endings on the neck and can be very arousing for both men and women," Laino said. To put this principle into practice, partners can try lying down side-by-side and blowing lightly on the skin between the lower ear lobe and the collarbone. As things heat up, adding other factors, like kissing, nibbling, or licking, per Laino's conversation with Women's Health, can be fun. 

The feet

The feet have long had a reputation for inspiring sexual desire, thanks to the notoriety of foot fetishes in contemporary culture. However, beyond the psychological stimulation that feet can create in some people, this body part can also produce physical pleasure. As Love Honey sexpert Annabelle Knight emphasized in an interview with Metro, "It is worth remembering, too, that the feet are erogenous zones in their own right, with 7,000 nerve endings." Because of this massive quantity of nerve endings, some people can even achieve orgasm through foot stimulation– Although Knight explained that it's not common. "Foot orgasms are incredibly rare and it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve an orgasm through foot stimulation alone," she told Metro.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of ways that partners can enjoy each other's feet. Per clinical sexologist Aliyah Moore, couples can start out by giving each other a simple foot massage. In an interview with Elle, Moore elaborated, "Many nerve endings cover the feet ... So, massaging them creates exciting and intense sensations." To alternate or vary these sensations, Moore recommended using toys. "For example, tickle your partner's feet using a feather or a wisp of cotton or any subtly sharp object. You can also alternate between warm and cold things to stimulate the feet," Moore told Elle.

The ears

In the movie "Meet the Fockers," Barbara Streisand's character, Roz Focker, dished out some iconic sex advice: Stimulate the ears. In the context of a comedy film, this advice might seem funny. However, according to science, Roz Focker might just have been right. Per Medical News Today, the human ear has 25,000 nerve endings — More than three times the number of nerve endings in the feet. Because of this, the outlet reports, some people can even achieve orgasm through ear stimulation alone.

While not everyone may want to try for an "eargasm," there are several alternative ways to experience ear pleasure. According to clinical sexologist Steve McGough, Ph.D., a massage can effectively stimulate this pleasure center. As McGough revealed in an interview with Women's Health, gently massaging the ear can be especially enjoyable. "This area is connected to the vagus nerve, which travels from the skull downward through the heart, nipples, and genitals," he told the outlet. McGough added that this massage could be especially stimulating for women. "Research has shown that the vagus nerve is involved in female orgasm," he shared.

Luckily, a massage isn't the only way to evoke ear pleasure. Partners can also use their fingertips and mouths to make each other feel good. In an interview with Insider, licensed sex therapist Vanessa Marin, MFT, advised: "Try lightly caressing with a fingertip, nibbling on the earlobe, or tracing your tongue around the back of the ear."

The cheeks

For some people, a kiss on the cheek seems more fit for their grandma than, say, a lover. However, when incorporated into a sexual context, cheek kisses can also be erogenous. According to Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist and the director of The Intimacy Institute, the cheeks respond well to touch. Speaking to Women's Health, Skyler explained, "The cheeks are actually really sensitive. If you have your partner close their eyes as you softly caress their cheek, that can be really arousing."

Interestingly, cheeks aren't just a physical pleasure center — They are also an emotional one. In an interview with Elite Daily, body language expert Tonya Reiman analyzed the emotional impact of touching someone's face. "When someone touches or strokes your hair and/or face during sex, it is typically a demonstration of affection. This is primal; it shows that they want to connect with you on more than a mere physical level," Reiman said. The best part is that a kiss on the cheek can be extremely meaningful for the receiving partner. As New York-based sex therapist Stephen Snyder, M.D., told Women's Health, this gesture "can activate deep feelings of being cared for."

Consequently, partners looking to bring more sentimentality into their sex lives might want to stimulate each other's cheeks. Caress them with a finger, nuzzle them with the nose, or shower them with kisses. Ultimately, showing the cheeks some love can also make one's partner feel more loved. 

The wrists

Just like the cheeks, the inner wrist can be a pleasure center emotionally and physically. Nonetheless, NetDoctor reports that not everyone knows that this region has the potential to send shivers up the spine. As sex therapist Mia Sabat told the outlet, "It mightn't be the first spot that comes to mind when you think of erogenous zones, but the inner wrist is incredibly sensitive." Beyond the inner wrist's physical sensitivity, the region also has the power to foster intimate communication between partners. In her conversation with NetDoctor, Sabat revealed, "Feeling your partner's heart rate increase as you caress [their inner wrist] will turn you on, too." 

Some couples may also want to use their wrists to introduce a little bit of power play into their sex lives. According to sexologist Goody Howard, MSW, MPH, pairs can achieve this when one partner grabs the other one's wrist during a sexual interaction. In an interview with mindbodygreen, Howard said, "Being pinned down by the wrists or a firm grip during a make-out session is common. Pressure play is a great way to explore pleasure with the wrists." Couples looking to spice up their wrist play even further may consider experimenting with handcuffs or other forms of bondage. 

The belly

The belly represents a key piece of real estate on the human body as it is situated immediately above the genitals. Because of its prime location, the belly experiences heightened levels of sensitivity and erotic pleasure (via Insider). And, per a conversation between Women's Day and certified sexuality educator Amy Levine, a small minority of people can orgasm from doing an ab workout. Levine told the outlet, "It's unlikely that the majority of us will be able to experience [this] effect, but incorporating some ab work in the bedroom could help get you in the mood. Not to mention, the thought of [your partner] moving farther south can be downright exciting."

While doing abdominal exercises could be very rewarding for some, it might be ... well, anticlimactic for others. To stimulate the belly without doing crunches, partners can try gently touching each other's stomachs. In an interview with Women's Health, clinical sexologist, Renee Lanctot, Ph.D., recommended focusing on the region surrounding the belly button. "One of the best ways to approach belly button play is by circling the area: Use large circles that converge slowly, using the belly button as your bullseye," Lanctot suggested. While some couples may enjoy using their fingers, others might prefer to use their tongues, or even a toy.

The scalp

It's no secret that a head rub can feel fantastic, but some folks may not know that the scalp is actually one of the body's main pleasure centers. Because of its many nerve endings, the scalp is extra sensitive to touch, according to Prevention. This means that sexual partners can unlock the scalp's feel-good potential via a gentle massage. According to Australian psycho-sexologist Chantelle Otten, one effective scalp rub technique can really heat things up during a make-out session. In an article for Body+Soul, Otten advised, "[O]nce you start kissing, run your nails through your partner's hair and down the back of their scalp and neck to bring on those pleasurable feelings." She suggested adding a bit of neck and ear action into this scalp play: "Moving your thumbs up behind the ear and down the nape of the neck are really hot ways to incorporate multiple erogenous zones." 

For partners looking to explore the spicier side of scalp play, it might also be gratifying to incorporate a bit of hair-pulling. As certified sex educator Emma McGowan told Glamour, hair-pulling can stimulate the scalp in a deeply satisfying way. "Your scalp has thousands of little nerve endings, and if you've ever had your hair pulled during sex, you know it's an erogenous zone," she told the outlet. Before pulling someone's hair, however, remember that it is important to ask for consent. 

The hands

Holding hands can be a sweet gesture in public, but in private, it can actually be kind of steamy. In an interview with Well+Good, sexologist Jess O'Reilly, Ph.D., explained that the hands are a pleasure center, capable of receiving intense enjoyment. To tap into these good feelings, O'Reilly suggested that partners try rubbing each other's palms. "Consider giving your partner's hand (or your own) a sensual massage using your thumb to work in sweeping ovals ... You can also trace your fingertips around the palm with a feather-light touch or play with their fingers in your hand with a gentle stroking and circular motion," she told Well+Good. 

Couples looking to connect more deeply during sex might also consider using their hands to foster a sense of emotional closeness. Patti Wood, a body language expert, told Elite Daily that holding hands during these intimate moments can help partners bond. As Wood told the outlet, "[Holding hands during sex is] a sign of tenderness, and it's a signal of connection, rather than just passion or lust." The body language expert added that a person who grabs their partner's hand is trying to communicate their desire for closeness. "They want to maintain a connection with you that has more intimacy attached to it," Wood affirmed.